The Vampire Bat (1933)
Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Melvyn Douglas, and Dwight Frye star in Frank R. Strayer’s 1933 Pre-Code horror film The Vampire Bat.
As the residents of Kleinschloss die from blood loss, the mayors believe that vampirism is on the rise, but police inspector Karl Brettschneider remains doubtful. The victims are cared for by scientist Otto von Niemann, who investigates their condition. Martha Mueller, a bat-attack victim, is visited by Hermann Glieb, a mentally challenged man who likes bats because they are “soft like a cat” and “nice.”
Dr. von Niemann encounters one of the townsfolk Kringen on the road home. Kringen says that he was attacked by a bat which was actually the vampire which had changed form. He withheld the story from the town in order not to spread fear. However, Dr. von Niemann urges Kringen to reveal his tale. Kringen becomes suspicious that Glieb is the vampire because of his obsession with bats. Glieb collects bats off the streets and lives with them.
The doctor returns to his home, which also contains the hypochondriac Gussie Schnappmann, her niece Ruth Bertin, and servants Emil Borst and Georgiana. Glieb is quickly suspected to be the vampire around town causing people to become afraid of him. Dr. von Niemann and another doctor, Dr. Haupt, determine that Ms. Mueller, as with all of the previous deaths, has died from blood loss. Upon seeing the corpse, Glieb runs away screaming.
The next morning, while Dr. von Niemann, Brettschneider, and Bertin are discussing vampires inside the house, Glieb enters the garden. The town fathers arrive to the house and inform of Kringen’s death and Gleib’s disappearance. An angry mob hunts down Gleib and chases him through the countryside and into a cave, where he falls to his death.
On that night, Dr. von Niemann is observed controlling Emil Borst, who picks up Georgiana and takes her to Dr. von Niemann’s lab, where a strange organism is observed and they drain Georgiana’s blood from her neck.
Brettschneider and Dr. von Niemann are informed of Georgiana’s death after Schnappmann discovers her body in her bed. They find Ms Mueller’s crucifix, which Glieb toyed with the night Dr. von Niemann went to see her. Because no other plausible explanations for the deaths exist, Brettschneider believes that vampires are present in the village. They conclude that Glieb is guilty after seeing him in the garden that morning.
However, upon hearing of Glieb’s death, Brettschneider’s conviction is decimated. Brettschneider is instructed by the doctor to return home and use sleeping pills, though the doctor has given him poison instead in an attempt to drain his blood. Bertin observes Dr. von Niemann controlling Borst telepathically at Brettschneider’s residence. It comes to light that the doctor has created an artificial being and is using the blood to keep it fed. Bertin is tied up and gagged in Dr. von Niemann’s lab. Brettschneider enters disguised as Borst, with the real Borst’s body on a trolly, whom Brettschneider says is himself. Dr. von Niemann approaches ‘Borst’, who is really Brettschneider, and Brettschneider pulls a gun on the doctor and goes to unbind Bertin. Brettschneider drops the gun when he is attacked and wrestles with Dr. von Niemann. Borst takes the gun and shoots Dr. von Niemann as the two men fight. Borst then shoots himself as well.
Directed by Frank R. Strayer
Written by Edward T. Lowe Jr.
Produced by Phil Goldstone and Larry Darmour
Cinematography Ira H. Morgan
Edited by Otis Garrett
Music by Charles Dunworth
Distributed by Majestic Pictures
Restored and upscaled by moonflix, LLC
Lionel Atwill as Dr. Otto von Niemann
Fay Wray as Ruth Bertin
Melvyn Douglas as Karl Brettschneider
Maude Eburne as Gussie Schnappmann
George E. Stone as Kringen
Dwight Frye as Hermann Gleib
Robert Frazer as Emil Borst
Rita Carlisle as Martha Mueller
Lionel Belmore as Bürgermeister Gustave Schoen
William V. Mong as Sauer
Stella Adams as Georgiana
Paul Weigel as Dr. Holdstadt
Harrison Greene as Weingarten
William Humphrey as Dr. Haupt
Carl Stockdale as Schmidt
Paul Panzer as Townsman
Original release date:
January 10, 1933